Dear friend,

Imma propose a new rule to avoid debt in photography and life: let us call it the “two camera rule.”

The two Lamborghini rule

I stole this idea from exotic cars.

Apparently there is a statistic that the average Lamborghini or Ferrari owner owns at least two.

For example, this is the rule:

You should not buy a Lamborghini unless you can order two of them (in cash).

I heard another rule from Gene Simmons from KISS on buying a house:

Don’t buy a house unless you can buy two of them, in cash.

I also got some good advice from Thorsten Overgaard on Leica cameras:

Never buy a Leica camera on credit. Only buy in cash.

So this is my rule:

Do not buy a new camera, unless you can afford to buy two of them, in cold hard cash.

Debt is slavery

Oakland, 2015

You want to be a debt-free photographer and person.

If you have debt, you are a slave to our capitalistic system. You will be forced to keep working a job you hate, in order to pay off your debts. You might lose sleep over debt.

When I graduated college, I had about $10,000 USD of student loans. I worked part time (20 hours a week) making $12 an hour in tech support/IT.

I first took out a $5,000 loan because I thought I needed to pay for my dorm. I then paid the dormitory fee. Then, I got another $5,000 scholarship deposit into my checking account. I was like, “Oh shit– should I return this money, and ask for my loan money back?” Like an idiot, I didn’t. I ended up using that money buying a used Canon 5D for $1,200 and buying my sister a $1,000 MacBook laptop, and also money on some lenses (Canon 70-200 f4L lens, Sigma 105mm macro lens, 35mm f2 Canon lens, 24mm f2.8 Canon lens). And of course, I blew a lot of money eating out with my ex-girlfriend.

I took out another $5,000 student loan to go backpacking through Europe with Cindy. Well worth it.

My story with Debt


Anyways, I didn’t mind graduating with debt too much. But I wanted to pay it off as quickly as possible. It felt like a “damacoles sword” dangling over me, suspended by a horse hair. Ready to fall on me.

I got a $40,000 USD a job at Demand Media working at as an Online Community Manager (thanks to Cindy for helping me get an internship there my senior year). To be frank, it was hard to build a savings after college. My rent was $750 a month in West LA, near Sawtelle. I had my phone bill, my gas bill (thank God I owned my 1990 Mazda Miata which I paid in cash for $2,000), eating out, and other bills. After 6 months of working, I only was able to save around $1,000 USD. I paid the minimum student loan every month ($200 USD a month).

Lamborghini Ego Edition

I was only able to pay off my debt when I started my own business, and I would get huge influxes of cash. I got a book deal (thanks Tobias) for around $5,000 USD. I made the smart decision to put 100% of that money to take out a massive chunk out of my student loan debt.

As I started to teach workshops, I focused on putting 80% of my profits into paying off the remaining $5,000 USD student loan.

One day, I got an email from Sally Mae: saying,

Congratulations! You have paid off your student loan in full.

I looked at my screen:

Debt: $0.

I fucking feel emotional even thinking about it. I think I almost cried.

I felt free. No more fucking system controlling me. Time for me to build my ERIC KIM EMPIRE (thanks to Jason and Holly from Brighton for the idea).

Meditations on Debt


Lessons I learned:

1. We are kind of fucked.

If you have a 9-5, I honestly think it’s close to impossible to pay off debts, including student loans and credit card debts, house mortgage, car payments, etc.

Why? For me, being surrounded with co-workers with BMW M3 cars, new iPhones, and nice clothes always made me feel envious. I desired to buy new shit, instead of paying off debt. And practical reason: our income is not high enough (after taxes) from a company job, to pay off fucking massive debts.

Suggestion: Pick up side jobs.

A practical suggestion to pay off debt: start driving Uber after work, before work, or on the weekends. Pick up side jobs, start your own (profitable company) on the side, and use all that side income to pay off your debt. Use your day job money to pay for your living expenses.

Also, if you happen to get a bunch of money in one huge chunk (inheritance, lucky break, business deal), DO NOT SPEND IT ON SHIT YOU DON’T NEED! Use 100% of that to take a massive bite out of your debt.

Learn from my mistake. To be honest, I don’t regret the $5,000 loan to backpack through Europe. But I do regret wasting the other $5,000 to buy a camera and lenses I don’t even own anymore, and which are massively outdated.

2. The view from the top is overrated

I’m currently on top of my game. According to Google, I’m the #1 king of street photography.

I make good money. I own my RICOH GR II and a film Leica and Summicron lens. I got money in the bank, and I do what I love.

Yet, I’m not 100% satisfied.

Part of me, after buying all the shit I wanted, I looked at my life and said:

That’s it?

Kind of how Jay-Z first drove his Rolls-Royce Phantom around the block and said, “That’s it? No fireworks and shit?”

Same with shooting with a digital Leica, you are excited for a week, then we get used to it, and it collects dust on your shelf like all your other cameras.

True happiness

Only way to be happy: always be creating.

Make more photos, and publish more.

Make more paintings. Dance more. Write more poetry.

Also, get off that social media treadmill. Join ERIC KIM FORUM instead, and join a positive community of self-directed learning. Looking forward to having you.

For inspiration, buy HAPTIC TOOLS.



ERIC KIM x HENRI NECK STRAP  by HAPTIC INDUSTRIES // Portrait by Benjamin Thompson

If you want to make a living (or a killing) from photography, download:



Table of Contents

Learn how to make a living from your passion:

Photography Business 101

How to Make Money with Photography

Photography Marketing 101


How to Hustle.

Entrepreneurial Principles

How to be a Full-time Photographer

Photography Blogging

How to Teach Photography

Social Media

How to Save Money


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